Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Setting up a Netgear wifi access point

I have an ancient Netgear access point in my spares cupboard, and I needed an additional access point, so I got it out and tried to configure it.

The problem was, the Netgear box was so old, that the https encryption methods that it could use, are all so old that current browsers don't use them. And it refused to be accessed via http.

I tried Firefox and Chrome. No luck.

So I had a bit of a think. What I needed was an old browser. So, using Google, I found Firefox 38 and installed that; installation was easy, and didn't mess up my current Firefox. And that worked - I was able to access and configure the Netgear, and it is now sitting quietly in an area that gives wifi coverage to a part of the house that was previously uncovered.

It turned out, I needn't have done it. I also have a Buffalo wifi access point (I have a story about that, see below) which still works, and I bought another TP-Link on eBay for £12,a nd I also have a wifi repeater that will also work as an access point. And the Siemens wifi AP that I thought had failed, just needed reconfiguring. An embarrassment of riches.

So, the story about the Buffalo.

A long time ago, I had my leased-line access (2 megabits) terminating in the house, and most of the servers in the garage, which was a separate building several yards away. In order to join the garage servers to the in-house servers, I used two Buffalo wifi APs as a bridge, so that the two groups appeared as a single network, and I had a speed of 54 mbits between the two groups.

Later on, I strung a cat 5 overhead between the two buildings. Maybe I should have done that in the first place.

Words have consequences

So said Mr Abdullah A. S. Patel, an Imam from Bristol, when he questioned the Tory leadership candidates.

The candidates eagerly agreed, and promised to investigate Muslim-hatred in the Tory party.

But words do indeed have consequences. Here's some words from Mr Patel, advice for women.

 Here's Mr Patel's proposal for Israel - this is the same graphic that Naz Shah, the Labour MP shared, and which she subsequently apologised for as antisemitic.

In other tweets, he claims that British politicians are 'on the Zionists Payroll’. That "Zionists are "hiding behind the Holocaust".

But, as Mr Patel explained - words have consequences. Mr Patel has now been suspended from the school that he is deputy head of.

Yes. Words have consequences. And if you live in a glass house, don't throw stones.

Monday, 17 June 2019

Parliament Prorogue

Parliament closes for the holidays; this is normal and traditional, and nothing much happens while parliament is prorogued.

But the idea of proroguing parliament so that a government can push through an action while parliament isn't sitting, is very very bad.

In the British Constitution, parliament is sovereign. At the top of the tree. The main thing. If a government deliberately prorogues parliament in order to take an action, then they are doing so because they know that if parliament is sitting, then the action would not be allowed.

This is called a coup.

This is how the Roman Republic became the Roman Empire; instead of the Senate being the Main Thing, it was Julius Caesar - until he got milkshaked. And then it was Augustus, and his successors. It was the end of the republic. And this is also how the Nazi party converted a majority in the Bundestag, into a permanent dictatorship. It's the sort of action that one might expect in a banana republic.

No party should be allowed to do this, and I would hope that no-one will even try, because the fallout from such an attempt would make the current ding-dong over Brexit look like a food fight at the vicar's tea party.

Sunday, 26 May 2019

Reinstalling BPT

HMRC provide a handy PAYE program so that we can pay our taxes quickly and accurately. This is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux, and is called HMRC-BPT. I was running it on my main workstation before it crashed.

Obviously, I do a backup each month, to my central server (and it gets copied from there to the backup servers). So there should not have been a problem.

Except that they provide BPT for 32 bit linux. Not 64 bit Fedora linux, which is what I'm running. And then  you try to run the program, it just exits, because it realises that it's on a 64 bit system.

This is bad news - I'll be needing to run this program on June 1, 5 days away. And it's puzzling, because I've been running it on a 64 bit linux for years. And, of course, I dn't remember how several years ago, I got it working.

When I stopped panicking, I realised that, if the worst came to the worst, I could install BPT on the only Windows box that I keep (rather like a tame snake). So I did that, restored my data backup, and it worked. Whew!

But then I tried it on the 64 bit linux box. First, I ran the install program, and to my surprise, that worked. But when I came to run BPT itself, it didn't work.

So I went to the directory where rti.linux lives, and ran that. It helpfully told me that I was missing So I ferreted around and found a copy of that, put it in place, and tried again. This time, it said that I was missing So again, I found a copy of that
and put it into the /usr/lib directory (which is where the 32 bit libraries are). At this point, I was expecting that I'd be going through this procedure several more times. At least.

Then I tried it again, and to my surprise and delight, it worked!

So, if you have a 64 bit Fedora linux system and want to run BPT, don't despair. Even though HMRC don't tell you how to do it, it's actually pretty easy.

Saturday, 25 May 2019

A crash, and a recovery

My main workstation needed a reboot, so I rebooted it ... and it didn't reboot. It came back with the dreaded "grub-rescue" prompt. And I couldn't work out how to rescue it.

So I decided to reinstall linux (Fedora 30). That didn't go as smoothly as I would have liked.
The first five drives that I tried to install to, were recognised by the HP xw6600, but not by linux. Eventually, I tried a 160gb drive, and that worked. I have no idea why.

So I also connected up the drive that wouldn't boot as the second drive, hoping that I'd be able to copy all the configuration files across.

That worked. I mounted it using mount /dev/mapper/fedora-root temp2 and all the files were there, so I was able to copy them to the newly installed drive. That meant that all my bookmarks, and ftp bookmarks, were preserved!

So why did it fail? I just don't know. Computers fail all the time. Just keep making backups!

Thursday, 23 May 2019


Is throwing a milkshake at someone, an acceptable form of protest?

Absolutely not!

Saying what you think is acceptable. Holding up a placard is acceptable. Joining in a protest march is acceptable.

Throwing a milkshake is bullying. Legally, it's common assault. It is not NOT political discourse, it is not legally protected free speech. If you think that throwing a milkshake is an acceptable form of protest, then you also think that an appropriate reply to your milkshake, would be a milkshake thrown at you.

What happened to polite, civilised disagreement?

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

Your personal information

They leak. They all leak.

I've been getting huge amounts of spam from people claiming to know my password. They give an old password that I used at one time on LinkedIn (long since changed, but I keep a record of past passwords). Clearly, LinkedIn had a leak at one time. It's annoying (but my spam filter removes the spam from my inbox).

Twitter leaked 32 million account details.

Facebook leaked hundreds of million account details.

Now Instagram has leaked 49 million names and phone numbers.

I'm not surprised. When you have systems as large and complex as that, there's likely to be security lapses.

So, what do you do when one of these social media sites asks you for your personal information? Me - I make up something for them. A fake name, a fake date of birth, a fake phone number. The email address is one that I create just for that purpose. And I record all of this, in case they ask me to prove that I am who I say I am.

It's surprising what they accept as proof. Facebook commonly asks people to prove identity by giving a phone number, which they then text a code to, and you type the code into Facebook, thus proving ... proving that you own a phone. Why they think that this proves that you are who you say you are, is beyond my feeble brain to fathom.

So that when all this gets leaked, and becomes available on the various sites that offer such information, I haven't lost anything that would allow impersonation (modern parlance is "identity theft").

Eventually, Facebook might ask me to prove my identity - a passport, or a driving licence, perhaps? NO WAY. It's bad enough if you leak my name, phone and birthday. I'm not going to give you something which, if leaked, will cause me SERIOUS inconvenience. And yes, I do see all the promises that you make that you'll take very great care over this information.

But I don't believe that you are able to.